(This post is not so much a news report as it is some thoughts I have about Christians in crisis. - A. S.)
Hunter Frederick of Frederick Associates tells me that when takes on new clients, he has one requirement:
"I need to know they are repentant before I will work with them," Frederick says of entertainment and faith-based crisis management and PR firm.
I called Frederick yesterday to ask him about his newest client, Tullian Tchividjian. After losing his ministry job last week, the former pastor contacted the agency, and on Monday, Frederick took him under counsel.
Of course high-profile people in ministry need the same time and space to make that journey of sorrowful repentance and healing as anyone else. Tchividjian's journey seems to have been anything but slow and easy. He has been both loved and loathed in the public's ever watchful eye. And the voices. The tens of thousands of friends, fans, followers, brutal critics, and those who have raised genuine concerns are all threads of a rough fabric that now must be dealt with.
On a personal note, Hunter Frederick and I go back a few years, and we haven't exactly seen eye-to-eye on things. I first met him when I covered the Michael Gungor story. The controversial singer became Frederick's client in 2013, and my own ministry took a stand and pulled support from a local youth concert which Gungor eventually cancelled. (I wrote follow-up articles taking aim at the idea of celebrity pastors who felt compelled to hire a PR agent to spin their sin. Hunter in turn has taken his aim at discernment ministries.)
In spite of our differences, we can talk about the immense impact this particular crisis has had on the church in the past several months, and its loud crescendo that has cracked many relationships.
Having come from public relations myself, I understand the tension. Back in my early career, I was a media relations spokesperson for a major airline that no longer exists. (I promise that wasn't my fault.) But I do know what PR spin is all about. I could spin with the best of them, and I did. And yes, little lines were crossed - not by the world's standards, but by God's.
I've learned since those days that truth is more important than pleasing customers or putting a good face on a ravaged situation. Having experienced this, I will say I do not believe Frederick spins. In my interactions with him, I believe he also seeks truth and healing through Christ, and has a heart bigger than his clients' crises.
As part of the contract with Tchividjian, Frederick says he will now intercept and manage the hundreds of interview requests and messages pinging Tchividjian's devices. And after distributing the former pastor's final public statement on the matter. Frederick then gave his client what I think is solid advice: Disappear from the spotlight. Go dark on social media.
Wise counsel on his part. As I reflect on my own sin and need for a Savior, let's hope and pray that Tullian finds true peace that surpasses all understanding.
It is only at the cross, in the quiet place of repentance and forgiveness, all other voices silenced, that his journey can truly have that space and time needed for completion.